Working Oakland families hit hard by school closure, shelter in place order

Roshanda Robinson started bringing her two young children to work at Sade’s Hair Salon in San Leandro last week when the Oakland Unified School District canceled classes.

When authorities on Monday announced a mandatory Bay-Area-wide shelter-in-place, it came as another blow to the family. It’s now unclear how much work Robinson will even have in the days and weeks ahead.

“It’s going to be different,” she said in an interview outside Elmhurst United Middle School in East Oakland where she was picking up free food the district was handing out to families. “I’ll have to sit down and write out some things.”

While more than 6 million people are affected by the shelter in place order that began Monday, families like Robinson’s have been hit especially hard.

Many residents around the region have been telecommuting from their home offices. But in East Oakland and surrounding neighborhoods, many residents work in the service industry, labor or other jobs where working from home is impossible.  

“I am concered for my kids and for us because we don’t know how long this is going to last,” said Tausaga Lua Lua, who works in a warehouse unloading shipping containers.

He was also at Elmhurst United Middle School taking advantage of the free food program, but was distressed about his job and his family’s future.

Earlier this week, Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry and his wife Ayesha posted a video on social media asking fans to join with them in supporting kids in the Oakland Unified School District.

 “We wanted to intercede on behalf of the kids that rely their daily services and try to help in any way we can,” Steph Curry said.

Saun-Toy Latifa Trotter, who works for school-based behavioral health programs with Children’s Hospital Oakland, said “the loss of work, and for our students, the loss of connection, will have an impact.”

The health center at Castlemont High School where she works is staying open even as the school next door is closed. Trotter said the school closures are disproportionately affecting many of the East Bay’s already impacted populations like low-income families, people with disabilities and communities that can least afford to stay home.

“I worry about how do we make sure we are taking care of our most vulnerable communities?” Trotter said. “How do we not forget them.”

Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at and follow him on Twitter @EvanSernoffsky